It may be the new hot trend in the fast-paced beauty world, but for many cancer fighters and survivors, microblading offers them something they’ve long craved: the chance to feel like themselves again. And Constance Latham, owner of Maven Esthetics in Chicago, has become one of the industry leaders in the service. First nicknamed “The Brow Maven” while working in waxing and brow tinting, Latham says her entrance to the microblading world was something of a calling. “It’s a skill for me,” Latham says. “It’s something I just naturally was meant to do.”
Microblading is a semi-permanent tattooing technique where a collection of tiny needles are used to tattoo pigment into one’s skin in the shape of eyebrows. Unlike eyebrow tattooing, microblading is done by hand and not with a machine or a single needle.
Latham first discovered microblading after years of work in the cosmetics and esthetician world. An art school student in fashion merchandising, Latham began working in cosmetics after graduating. “It was a nice transition from the art world into beauty because it was still me being expressive and combining the two worlds,” Latham says. After interning with plastic surgeons and at more traditional spaces, she began working at Benefit Cosmetics in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago, where she became known as “The Brow Maven.”
Part of the nickname stemmed from Latham’s desire to stay knowledgeable about trends and developments in the beauty world. While attending a convention in 2015, she learned about microblading. “I started asking a lot of my different friends that were from the tattoo industry about it and they were like, ‘I don’t know what that is, but you should figure it out,’” recalls Latham. In 2016, she began training at one of the offices where she previously interned. Latham took to the skill, likely because she’d “seen thousands of eyebrows on a daily basis.” After building her portfolio working in other facilities, Latham opened her studio, Maven Esthetics, in 2016.
From the beginning, Latham’s clients were part of the new cancer community. “I had a client who was a friend of a friend who came in and it wasn’t until she filled out the client forms that I realized she was in treatment for a brain tumor,” Latham says. Later, a woman came to her studio with her daughter. The two said they had heard about Latham at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “I did her daughter’s brows and that day, something clicked in me,” says Latham. “I think she was maybe three or four years younger than me, and I’d been around women that have had cancer before, but not so close in age to me. She just wanted her brows back. And that kind of set the tone for me that it was bigger than just the next beauty treatment.”
After those first few clients, most of the clients coming in were women who’d heard about microblading because they were in treatment and didn’t know where to go. “It was just word-of-mouth and it just kept growing and growing and growing,” recalls Latham. Since then, Latham’s practice has grown beyond the cancer community. She regularly treats clients who have alopecia or trichotillomania (hair pulling disorder), for example. But some clients are not ill at all. After Tine DeFiore of famed tattoo shop Black Oak Tattoo asked Latham to perform the service for her while going live on social media, her popularity grew exponentially.
Clients working with Latham will first fill out paperwork and then undergo a consultation where she can answer any questions. “I kind of just talk to the person,” she says. “It’s really easy for me to see what someone’s brows are going to look like before I even start. I kind of get a feel for the person.” Then, she begins a pre-draw. “I always explain to the person [that] I have to make you look like you, whatever that is, when you [first] walked in,” she says. Latham is cautious about her clients’ appearances. Rather than experiment or “do crazy things,” Latham is passionate about treating hair that would have been there. “If there [are] areas where you may not have had hair, if at some point in your life there was hair there, that’s where I would put it,” adds Latham. Latham then determines the silhouette and freehands the strokes while following the client’s hair pattern. Next comes a color swatch to make sure the tattoo color flatters the clients face shape and skin tone. Like a regular tattoo, nothing happens to whatever hair was there in the first place as hair follicles are located in the dermis. “I make everyone feel completely comfortable,” she says.
“It was really amazing to see that the women that would come in had never been to [a] tattoo salon before. A lot of them had never even had a tattoo before, but wanted this service and felt like, if these artists say that she’s good, she has to be good,” says Latham. She recommends people interested in the service do their research beforehand. Many are unaware that microblading is a form of tattooing in the first place. It is not until they enter her shop and sign state of Illinois forms that they realize what the service actually entails. “For some people, as much as it’s an amazing service, and as much as I can make this look like hair, it’s still a tattoo,” says Latham. “It’s still on your face. And it’s still something that you have to be comfortable with.” If one is uncomfortable even filling in their eyebrows or getting their brows waxed, microblading might be too far of a leap into the unknown.
Although brows continue to be a big trend in the beauty world, Latham says her work is more a way for her to express art. It began with waxing and tinting eyebrows and grew to tattooing. “Even in picking colors and things like that, it was like, ‘Oh, that color theory class that was drilled into my head like 15 years ago, […] all these things make sense now,” says Latham. “I think the one thing I want people to know is that I do everything with good intent, with passion behind it, and just make every person feel comfortable in their own skin, whatever that is.”
To learn more about Maven Esthetics or to book a session, visit mavenesthetics.com.